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Title: 'Harry Grimsby' Reconsidered: The New South Wales Colonial Constabulary 1825-35
Contributor(s): McCabe, Kristine (author); Atkinson, Alan (supervisor); Roberts, David  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2008
Open Access: Yes
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Abstract: Harry Grimsby is the fictional rural constable in Alexander Harris's "The Emigrant Family", originally published in London in 1849. Harry had been a convict, so he was 'Too Indolent to work and too fond of a debauched life'. He had served as a farm constable during his servitude, proving that he had been prepared to betray his fellow convicts by assisting his master in their suppression. Forty-five years old and 'of good height, bony and broad shouldered', Harry, nonetheless, showed his moral failings by certain physical defects: he only had one eye, 'a colourless hard countenance' and a stupid grin. His face was 'debauched and repulsive'. A drunkard, Harry spent most of the day in the local public house where he was supplied free drinks, 'so he won’t be after the customers'. Harry was 'a dirty dog', sneaky, corrupt and violent. The final touch to this completely disreputable character comes when it is revealed that Harry had abandoned his child, 'without a roof over her head'. Harry Grimsby has come to embody, rightly or wrongly, the character of the colonial policeman. Aside from literary sources, reports from various committees and inquiries of the time and newspaper accounts provide plenty of evidence for the existence of a disreputable constabulary. Historians have drawn largely on these sources to support claims of incompetence and veniality in the colonial constabulary and, in the process, the stereotype has remained largely intact. The task of this thesis is to re-examine the existing stereotype by combining a quantitative approach with a strong focus on individuals, personalities and relationships. By investigating the New South Wales constabulary over a ten-year period, both in Sydney and in rural districts on the Cumberland Plain, and by following the lives and careers of many of the men who were employed, I will offer a more balanced and contextualised portrait of the early colonial constable. Statistical evidence alone, while necessary to establish overall patterns, cannot bring an element of humanity to the constable. That will take a far more nuanced interpretation of the official records and a consideration of the social, economic and political milieu in which they operated.
Publication Type: Thesis Masters Research
Field of Research (FoR): 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Rights Statement: Copyright 2008 - Kristine McCabe
HERDC Category Description: T1 Thesis - Masters Degree by Research
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Thesis Masters Research

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